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here and now! >> we expect the passage of an effective civil rights bill. >> we're going to move together. we're going to grow together. freedom, freedom, freedom! freedom now! >> free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we are free at last! >> we march to redress old grievances and help to resolve an american crisis. that crisis is born of the twin evils of racism and economic depravation. we march to demonstrate massively and dramatically our unalterable opposition to these forces and to their century-long robbery of the american people. our bodies will bear witness that jobs and freedom are needed now. those were the words used 50 years ago to explain why we march on august 28th, 1963, when more than 200,000 americans
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demonstrated that the time for change had come. 50 years later, the voices that will speak from the steps of the lincoln memorial have changed, but the reasons to march remain the same. good morning. i'm melissa harris-perry, live from the national mall in washington, d.c., where events are already underway for the 50th anniversary march on washington. thousands of people are gathered here already, with more continuing to stream in. among those scheduled to speak today are martin luther king iii, merly evers williams, the reverend al sharpton, attorney general eric holder, and john lewis. the only person to speak at the original march who is still alive today. here he is in 1963. >> by the forces of our demand, our determination, and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated south into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of god and democracy. we must say, wake up, america!
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wake up! for we cannot stop and we will not and cannot be patient. >> on that day, 50 years ago, 250,000 people gathered here to demand the rights of full citizens. they demanded comprehensive civil rights legislation, school desegregation, full employment, living wages, and the aggressive use of federal authority to ensure economic political and social justice. 50 years later, we have made progress, was the struggle continues for those same demands. we will bring you the live coverage of the events here on the mall throughout the day, right here on msnbc. and as we get things started this hour, i am thrilled to be joined this morning by joy reid, msnbc contributor and managing editor of she also leads nerdland whenever i'm on vacation. also, julian vaughn, naacp
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chairman emeritus. and next to him, the reverend william barber, head of the north carolina chapter of the naacp and leader of one of today's most important social movements for justice, the moral mondays protest in north carolina. thank you all for being here. mr. vaughn, i want to begin with you. as you think about where we have been, over the course of the past 50 years, how would you assess progress? >> well, if you look at the 50 years, the real measure of progress was the civil rights act of 1964. that's the legacy of that march. and that opened the door for black americans and people of color to go places and work in places, go places they hadn't been able to go before. some of the other legacies are not as strong. the supreme courts' revision of the voting rights act is a bad mark on them and meant that
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justice roberts had a dream that he followed since he was working for ronald reagan. he wanted to get rid of the vote rights act and now is in a position to do it. it's sort of a mixed picture. a million people were ahead, behind, it's a terrible thing to concentrate. but the thing that happened 50 years ago is people left here, determined to make a change, and people, i hope, are going to leave here determined to make a change. >> but that story of some forward progress followed by some retraction is part of the story. i think, you know, we tell it in our elementary schoolbooks as though it's a steady march, always towards justice, but i think it's helpful to remember that there's always the backslide. >> it's back and forth, back and forth. yeah, it always is. that's the way life is, unfortunately. but typical movement has been forward. we've gone forward, forward, forward. we've won things. we have a black president, we have a black attorney general. if you would have told me 50 years ago, i would say you were crazy. the you told me a year before it
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happened, i would say you're crazy. but it happened. it shows that we're changing country. but we haven't changed enough and there's much more work to do. >> let me ask you about this question of the more work we have to do. you have been gathering an interracial coalition of activists every single monday in north carolina, at the statehouse. and now y'all have kind of taken it on the road in north carolina. talk to me about whether or not we should still believe that mass movements can have the kind of power that they did to affect policy 50 years ago. >> you know, melissa, a part of our challenge is today in the movement, is to hold on to what we won and to push forward towards what is yet to be won. you know, we're still toward a more perfect union. and i think mass movements alone can do it, but if they're fusion politics, if you create space by using language like moral versus immoral, extremist versus constitutional, don't get limited into conservative versus
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republican, liberal versus democrat. tough brilliance of dr. king and attach that movement to a voter strategy and a voter education strategy, and you don't -- you know, dough don't work at trying to see who you can keep out. you actually keep julian bond and william bond together. i wasn't even born in 1963. i was in my mother's womb. i was born in august 1963. but the value is, when he and i can consult and learn the wisdom of the past, bring the nuances of the present, and have what we call in north carolina a values coalition, not raw personnel, but around deep moral values, deep constitution values, and fusion movement. we went to mitchell county, north carolina. 99% white, 89% republican and took the dream. the gang chains, the republican chair announced going to moral monday. 10,000 people in asheville, in a city that's 5% black.
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that's the power of the coalition. >> and i want to go a little bit further on that. in part because sometimes coalition also means doing relatively temporal work with people, with whom you have other kinds of deep disagreements, right? and yet you can say, all right, we may not agree on who we will vote for, once we get into the polling place, but we can agree that everyone should have unfettered access to that polling place. >> when we went into mitchell county, we said to them, listen. when this governor in north carolina cuts unemployment, unemployment in mitchell county, though it's 89% republican, was 15%. when he cut education, that made the jobs up there a public schoolteacher. when this governor goes against the environment, you don't mess with people's environment. when you hurt the vote, you undermine my -- and what they ended up saying was, there's not a lot different. >> i love that language. if you don't touch mountain
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people's environment. and joy, let me ask you a little bit about that. because part of the challenge that this movement represented by this 50th commemoration is, is that this is not just about race, this is not even primarily about civil rights, this is about lbgt questions, immigration, environment. that seems like a tougher coalition of people to hold together. >> yeah, it's difficult. because you're trying to sort of build this multi-faceted view of what civil rights means, when i think in the minds of many people, civil rights means what it meant 50 years ago. it meant an african-american issue. and it was even sometimes getting the civil rights establishment to accept the expansion of the feed for civil rights into an lbgt community. so you have a challenge, because some of these coalitions are sort of fractured, and they each have their own needs and their own priorities. so getting everyone on to the same page, but i think that's ones of the reasons the fight against it is so tough, and the fight against it is so fierce, because i think there's always
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been an understanding if you marry economic populism and you marry racial justice and it transcends race, that's a coalition that's a lot bigger and a lot more difficult to keep out of a voting booth. >> and that's part of what i want to talk about when we come back. is that this was always a march for jobs and freedom. there was always a labor aspect to this. so, in fact, even our memory of this is not completely accurate when we think about the coalition. speakers are already at the podium, as you can see and probably hear behind me. we are going to bring you many of the voices live today. now, for those of you joining us from home this morning, we want you to know that we want to know about what you are doing, even if you are not hear. how are you advancing the dream? we don't just want you to tell us, we want you to show us, too. head to to share what you are doing to help further dr. king's dream.
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use the #advancingthedream and tweet a picture that explains how you're going to help in moving forward. we're going to be right back with more of our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. we provide the exact individualization that your body needs. this labor day, don't invest in a mattress until you visit a sleep number store. once you experience it, there's no going back. oh, yeah! at our biggest sale of the year, every bed is on sale. queen mattresses now start at just $599.
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i have a dream. my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. i have a dream today! back with me here, just a short distance from the steps of the lincoln memorial, dr. julian
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vaughn, william barber, and msnbc's joy reid. i want to start with you again, mr. vaughn. in that quote that i think has become the iconic one about "my four little children being judged by the content of their character." but of course, what we know historically, within a month of this historic march, four little children lost their lives in the church in birmingham. and reverend king had talked about the idea of redemptive suffering before that. i want to listen for a moment about dr. king talking about redemptive suffering and ask you about that. so let's take a listen. >> and go on with the feeling that this is a righteous cause and that we will have to suffer in this cause and that a physical death is the price that some must pay. it's the price that i must pay to free my children and the children of my brothers and sisters and my white brothers from a permanent psychological death, then nothing can be more
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redemptive. i have always believed that unearned suffering is redemptive. and if a man has not discovered something so dear and so precious that he will die for it, then he doesn't have much to live for. >> so that's just two months before the march. >> it's hard to get your mind around that, if you haven't found something to die for, then you have nothing to live for. and most of us are going to say, i don't have anything i want to die for. but if you think about the people in the movement, they had made this commitment. they had said to themselves, i'm willing to die, i'm willing to be arrested, i'm willing to be beaten, i'm willing to go to jail, i'm willing to do all this suffering because i'm advancing this greater cause. everybody in the movement believed that and many people listening to this believed that too. it's a noble thought. >> and not just themselves, which is one thing, but their
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children. and the fact that just moments before this great, 50 years ago march, was the campaign. that changed the moral complexion of our nation. >> the parents in birmingham didn't want their children to do this. in fact, they told their children not to do it and the children did it anyways. and if you talk to those children today, they'll tell you about the fights they had with their parents and how they snuck out, they jumped out the backdoor of the school, they did everything they could so the adults wouldn't stop them. but once the adults saw them doing it, they were tremendously proud. my father and mother didn't want me to get arrested and they were horrified when i was, but i think they thought, you know, what a wonderful thing to do. >> i guess as we are thinking about where we are 50 years later, one of the questions, then, that i have is, so what motivates us in that way that dr. king talked about? what are the things that have that level of a sense of urgency for americans, regardless of race at this moment? >> i mean, now it's difficult,
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because i think a lot of particularly younger people were really galvanized around the redemptive suffering that a lot of people feel for trayvon martin, and this sense of fe feeling, and i think that is the closest that modern americans can come to feeling what it was like about literally feeling like a stranger in your own country. not able to walk into a restaurant and sit down, suspected of being a criminal. >> hold for just one moment. msnbc's ed schultz is actually addressing the crowd right now. we're going to take a minute and listen to ed. >> -- but it was the future. i take you to birmingham, alabama, last night, where i did a radio town hall and i can tell you what's happening in america right now. the dream can only be realized if we pay attention to what's going on in our own backyard. when we start picking and choosing neighborhoods, who's going to get the resources and who's not going to get the
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resources, we will lose this country, we will lose the vision of diversity, we will lose the opportunity of equality to move all people forward. you need to pay attention to what's happening in your backyard, to make sure that your school and those young kids get the resources they need to have an opportunity in america that will help them grow. being a product of the middle class, i was the one who was afforded the opportunities. and if we start picking and choosing neighborhoods, what kind of message are we sending to the youth of america? that this is the vision that they're going to have? that this is what it's supposed to be for them? no! that's not what dr. king's message was, that's not what america's focus is, and that cannot be the road to the future for america. stand tall in your community, fight for diversity, understand its strength, and make sure that every school is resourced to
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give every american child a chance to live the dream. god bless you! thank you! >> that was msnbc's ed schultz, speaking there. msnbc's ed schultz, speaking there, in part about the poshs of diversity e tity in schools. it makes me think about the attack on civil rights and voting rights in north carolina began first with an attack of the integration of schools in wake county, north carolina. >> exactly. and part of what we have to do, melissa, is destroy this myth of the ultra-conservative, extremist, that can hurt some without hurting all of us. the fact of the matter is, we connect the dots and we show that an attack on medicaid or an attack on public education or an attack on the working poor or an attack on vote rights is an attack on all of us. and then we frame all those things as moral. health care's a moral issue. session a moral issue. and then we say to folks, what we need is an anti-racial,
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anti-poverty, pro-justice, movement. and go back to mississippi, go back to north carolina. come here, but don't stay here. if you're going to change the nation, you've got to think states? and this is a question of what is happening in our local community. we will continue with coverage of this 50th commemoration of the march on washington when we return. [ bottle ] okay, listen up! i'm here to get the lady of the house back on her feet. [ all gasp ] oj, veggies -- you're cool. mayo? corn dogs? you are so outta here! aah! 'cause i'm re-workin' the menu, keeping her healthy and you on your toes. [ female announcer ] the complete balanced nutrition of great-tasting ensure.
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the struggle for every american to join in. >> welcome back to msnbc's live coverage of the 50th anniversary march on washington. i want to bring in now msnbc's mara schiavocampo, who is out along the march rail, apparently with someone who was here 50 years ago. mara? do we have mara? >> reporter: okay, sorry, we have a little bit of a technical problem. it's good to be on with you now. buses have been dropping people off all morning. the crowds are starting to gather here around the reflecting pool. just by eyeballing the crowd, it looks like several thousand people are already here. the march is set to get underway in just a few hours. and one of the people i want to talk to now is beverlyall st al. she was at the march 50 years ago, when she was 12 years old. you've brought with you some of the original programming material. tell me what you have here? >> that's right, mara.
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50 years ago, i was part of a leadership training program, harlem youth unlimited, which is sort of the precursor to the anti-poverty programs that later took place in the '60s and '70s. we came for, when the march of washington, for jobs and freedom. then it was jobs and freedom, now we want to just redeem the dream. >> and this program that you have here, this is the original program, from the march. if we could just turn it around, so people could take a look at it. and in there, it has a list of the demands. tell me what you were asking for at that time and what's been accomplished? >> there were ten demands, and basically we were looking for a minimum wage, at that time, of course, it was $2. we were looking for equal rights and the 14th amendment, we were looking the for the right to be a part of society. and unfortunately, mara, as you know, i'm here today, because a lot of those things have not changed. who knew we would have to come back 50 years later.
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>> and quickly, beverly, how does it feel to be back 50 years later? >> it feels absolutely amazing, just to see the thousands and thousands of people, it's like deja vu, to see all of those people out at the reflecting lake. i can remember being there 50 years ago. it was hot, just like it is today. my feet was in the water. just so many -- just totally interracial. it's wonderful. >> thanks so much, beverly. just one of the many voices, one of the many people who have gathered out here today to remember the time they came here or to live it anew for the very first time. melissa? >> mara schiavocampo, thank you so much. we'll be checking back in with you throughout the morning. still with me, joy reid, reverend william barber and julian bond. joy, let me come back to you. part of what is compelling and interesting to me the the role that media played in all of this. and at the time of the march, there was a great deal of conflict that, in fact, the media had created the problem, that there wasn't really a big race problem in america, that
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the media were creating it. and so here we are today, once again covering this, in an environment where there are people saying very similar things about the idea that media is generating this. how do we respond as members of media to the need to talk about these issues, at the same time that there is critique that the media itself created it. >> it's interesting, you were just talking earlier about the birmingham campaign, and a lot of that was about the shock that people saw in the north, watching those images of what was happening to children. and that this was being done to kids. i think that shocked the contented of the nation and of the president. remember, john f. kennedy didn't have any great interest in having a march. he's asked for time on three television networks to speak and to give that landmark speech that he gave on june 11th of 1963, which was very important. then he did something else that was important. based on all of that that had been built up in the galvanizing, that the media was necessary to make happen, he
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actually introduced legislation. and part of what the march was doing was supporting that legislation. so they're all components of it. and i think that julian bond could probably attest to this more than i, but the civil rights movement was very cognizant of utilizing the media, not to manipulate the media, but to make people see with their own eyes what people were going through, what people were dealing with in the south. i think today, we are challenged, because a lot of media now is opinion media. there is a lot more opinion media. and i think that makes it more difficult to give an objective reality to the people on the other side ideologically would accept. >> i would argue, it was always opinion media. it just at one point masked itself as a little bit of neutrality. i want to ask a little bit, mr. bond, specifically of the issues that joy just brought up. particularly of jfk. i want to listen to president kennedy saying, the issue would not stand or fall on this march. let's listen. >> this issue does not stand or fall on the august 28th. the august 28th is a chance for
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a good many people to express their feelings, but it's hard for them, a lot of other people to travel, it costs them money, a lot of them have jobs, so i think what we're talking about is an issue that concerns all of our people and the final analysis must be settled by the congress. >> so it must be settled by the congress. and you know, i can see the capital from where we're sitting. talk to me of the 113th congress and the likelihood at the end of this march, we can actually begin to settle some of these key issues. >> the likelihood is relatively slim, because this congress is composed, at least in the house, of people who want to say no to everything. doesn't matter if you bring a motherhood bill to the congress, they'll say, no, i'm against that. but you can always be hopeful and an optimist. i think good things usually do happen if you work hard enough. and if people who are here, and people who are watching push the congress, these things will happen. >> do we really think that this congress, the 113th, with more
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than 40 members of the congressional black caucus, with the largest group of women ever elected, it would be harder to get civil rights through this congress than through one that was more bound in the 1960s? >> it would be much harder, because there's not the moral pressure from the larger public that we had 50 years ago, but we can have that kind of moral pressure if we want to. if the people watching here, the people here now go home and knock on their congressman's doors, go to their meetings and say, hey, we want you to do this, we count on you to do this, it will be done. >> yeah, yeah. in fact, i want to very quickly ask -- this is our last moment here, reverend, about exactly that. this is idea of using pressure to get the legislation passed. >> we have to do it. that's why went we leave here, we're having 13 rallies in the 13 congressional districts of the 13th congressperson on august 28th, this coming wednesday, in the state. we must take this and get it back to the state. we must change our moral
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discourses. dr. julian bond said, because the right has limited to abortion, homosexuality, and prayer in the school. we need a moral discourse that deals with economics, that deals with voting, that deals with what is doing right. and if we do that, we can bring a lot of americans in from a very diverse place and i still have hope that the dream cannot only be held on to, but it can be advanced. but it's going to take a lot of work and we have to do it at the ground level. >> it's hard in this moment, on this day, to feel anything other than that a certain kind of optimism and spirit about what the american people are capable of. reverend barber and julian bond, thank you so much for joining us. coming up next, the reverend jesse jackson is going to join us live. we will be right back with more of our special coverage, the 50th anniversary march on washington, live from the national mall in washington, d.c. when you realize you need to switch to verizon, it's a reality check. i had my reality check when
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my country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, where i sing. land where my fathers died. land of the pilgrim's pride. from every mountainside, let freedom ring. >> young people took the lead in organizing much of what we now remember as the civil rights movement. one young reader named jesse jackson became the bearer for organizing after king's death. he began his work we king's side. they started operation breadbasket in atlanta in 1963. and the program used a simple economic concept. african-americans would not patronize businesses that denied them jobs, advancement, or
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courtesy. in 1966, dr. king appointed jesse jackson of the first director of operation bread basket in the city of chicago. king also killed the program sclc's most spectacularly popular program in chicago, adding 2,000 new jobs and $15 million in new income to the african-american community in its first 15 months. jackson became the national director of operation breadbasket in 1967, and went on to found the rainbow push coalition, and of course laid the groundwork for contemporary african-american political power, with his two runs for the american presidency. i am pleased to welcome reverend jesse jackson. he who attended the march 50 years ago, 1963. >> it seems like it was just yesterday. you know, the context, the stench of his blood was in the
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air. the big march in detroit, the week later. of course, the birmingham monday less than a month later. then kennedy. there was a season of tumultuous uprising in our country and a lot of bloodshed along the way and a lot of fear. >> and that issue of where the vines was coming from and who should fear the violence. i'll talk to you for a moment. i have something i would like us to listen to. on meet the press, roy wilkins being asked about the likelihood that it would be marchers who would riot. let's take a listen. >> mr. wilkins, there are a great many people, as i'm sure you know, that believe it would be impossible to bring more than 100,000 militant negroes into washington without incidence and possibly riot. >> i don't think there will be any rioting. i don't think a hundred thousand people, just assembling, is cause for apprehension about a riot. the city of washington has accommodated much larger crowds
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and nobody has talked up in advance the possibility of violence. >> so as you just pointed out, all of the violence up to this moment had been against demonstrators, against civil rights activists, and yet the question was, are you guys going to come here and riot? >> segregation was government policy. it was a part of the structure of our society at that time. the march on washington, the military had locked down the airport, transit and bus stations. they coraled the five military bases in this area, including the naval base. they put police on 18-hour shifts. and evened that black and whites in the same police car for the first time. they closed the liquor stores for the first time since prohibition. >> canceled major league baseball. canceled two games of major league baseball. >> they went wild. but the feel wuss to go from texas to florida, when you can't use a public toilet.
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the real deal was black soldiers had to sit by nazi prisons of war. i was arrested trying to leave the public library. >> talk to me about how in a moment where whatever challenges we face, for the most part people are not here fearing for their lives. they're not fearing that something horribly violent will occur, which is an indication of progress, but we don't want to just take this as a moment to sort of reflect. we want to take this as a moment to organize. how do we do that? >> now we have the white house and president in the congress. now we need not so much reflection and debatation, appropriation. the communities where black joblessness is 40% plus, 50% plus. new york, 50% plus. so we need to stop and employ,
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not just stop and frisk. stop and educate, stop and house. we took the biggest hit in the home foreclosure attacks, for example, racially targeted. so today, i hope barack obama will address the issue, revive the commitment for a constitutional right, and the state's right to vote. that's why states like north carolina and texas are going crazy, because they're giving it back to the states. student loan debt, $1 trillion student loan debt, an impediment to education. and i would think that we should pick up dr. king and lbg's campaign. >> indulge me for 20 seconds, even as we looking forward to legislation and activism, indulge me for 20 seconds of your most distinctive memory 50 years ago at the march. >> we're standing right about here. and watching roy wilkins speaking and whitney young and seeing people like jack
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robinson, and then people are saying now, the voice of our time, martin luther king. and there was a certain readiness for him. that was the crispness of that moment. and of course, the mayor is saying, you took off and you felt something. and we know we were going back in the territory where there was racial profiling. yet, we indulge ourselves in going to jail. and i had people say, what about the dream? the dream was to move public accommodations denial. the dream in '65 was the right to vote. '66 it was for housing. the dream keeps on -- it goes wherever there's a crack of injustice. that's why it should not be how many people came, but the
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appropriations and legislation addressed growing poverty. >> indeed. thank you so much, reverend jackson. >> you guys are so great. this is a good deal! >> we will return in just a bit. congresswoman eleanor holmes norton is going to join us, next. we'll be right back with more of our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington, live from washington, d.c. it starts with something little, like taking a first step. and then another. and another. and if you do it. and your friends do it. and their friends do it... soon we'll be walking our way to awareness, support and an end to alzheimer's disease. and that? that would be big. grab your friends and family and start a team today. register at
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we do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! we are tired. we are tired of being beat by policeman. we are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. and then you holler, be patient! how long can we be patient? we want our freedom and we want it now. that was a 23-year-old john lewis, who was then the chairman of the student of nonviolent coordinated committee. he was speaking on the national mall during 1953's march on washington. he would go on to become congressman john lewis of
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georgia. but lewis wasn't the only young person who got his start in the civil rights movement and went on to serve his country on capitol hill. another young 20-something worked in the march as chief organizer in 1963. and i am pleased to welcome democratic congressman, eleanor holmes norton. i am so thrilled to have you here at the table, here with reverend jackson. tell me your most distinctive memory of that day. >> well, melissa, i had come up from mississippi where i had been working as a student nonviolent committee worker, a law student for the summer. because via ruston, who i knew, was going to organize the march, this march that we had heard so much about in our circles, not in the country. and when i came to new york, we were starting from scratch. there had never been a mass
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march anywhere in washington. think about an orchestra, a symphony, how you get to the crescendo and martin luther king was the crescendo. so it was pretty hard for -- if you looked beyond the speeches to think, well, what is it about that crowd that seems so important? standing in back of us at the base of the lincoln statue, the most memorable moments for me was looking that way, particularly having been a part of organizing the march, over whom held great doubt and seeing that as far as the eye could see, i could not see the last person. somehow, out of whole cloth, a march had been created. >> this is so incredibly important, that i want to underline again. i spoke with my father and his twin brother.
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they were 21 when they we are here at the mall that day. and both of them said to me, well, the speeches mattered, the speeches were lovely, but that's not what we remember. what we remember were the people, the other people who we were here with. that was the thing that changed their lives and changed the direction of what they did next. is that also for you, that this was a catalyst moment, not so much in terms of what you heard people say here, but because of what people experienced there? >> there's no question. i do not believe that so many black and white people had ever assembled in one place before in the united states of america. you could see the evidence before you. somehow or the other, it seemed to me that people seeing ten years of demonstrations in the south had yearned for a way to participate. you couldn't go to alabama if you were an average person. you couldn't drop everything and join snct or whoever these crazy
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people were. but this march was an opportunity to come and participate. and people wanted that. they had seen what the media was showing us with all these demonstrations, all this violence, all this passi resistance. and while people didn't want to be involved in all of that, they did want, somehow, to be a part of it. they sensed that change was coming. it was sweeping over the country for the first time. >> and it took such courage and seriousness of purpose to be here. we're going to take a quick break. speeches, there are more of them to come this morning, including martin luther king iii, reverend al sharpton, and family members of both emmett till and trayvon martin. we'll bring you those and many more live here on msnbc's continuing coverage. there is much more ahead live from washington, steps away from the lincoln memorial. hi, i'm terry and i have diabetic nerve pain.
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my feeling is after being here and witnessing this, that as long as there's a man alive on the face of the earth, this day will always be in remembrance the world over. >> speeches are already underway over the next our, nancy pelosi, merly evers williams, and the only man speak back in 1963 who is still alive today, congressman john lewis. i want to bring you in here, joy, it seems to me that one of the false memories is the idea that everybody was on board. this was a great american moment. and it's important to remember how reviled dr. king was. i want to listen to a moment to senator strom thurmond reflecting on the state of civil rights in 1963.
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>> they do have freedom. they have more freedom here than in any country in the world. the negroes in this country, and more automobiles than they do in any other country. they have better fed, better clothed, better housed here than in any other country in the world. no one is deprived of freedom that i know about. >> no -- no one is kbroodeprive any freedom that he knows about. >> yeah, what are they complaining about? it's fascinating to listen to that and think about today and the parallels between the argument now, you've got a black president, what is it that you want? and i think there is that sort of sense in conservatism, why rock the boat, you have a lot here, and we just want you to proclaim that the country is great. and african-americans clearly believe the country is great. that's why african-americans march and that's what i they organize, that's why they care, because we believe the country is great. that's notion that's all there is, it is false and insane, but
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it is consistent. >> the language he used, they own more refrigerators and more automobiles, they're better fed and better clothed. and it's almost as if, because we clothe and feed them -- and i'm thinking about the fight going down the road there, a mile down the road at the capitol, this idea that we owe nothing to poor peoples in our communities. and to be poor in america is still better than to be poor in other parts, so what are you complaining about? >> and he's from a state where people weren't that well clothed. >> and they still aren't. and the fight against social justice is rooted in the notion that why do you want something from me? when it isn't a question of something from an individual american that has it, it's a question of what does a nation owe to its own people? you know, what do we owe to our own people? we spend a lot of money taking care of people all around the world? what do we owe to the least among us here. there is a notion in society that the answer to that is nothing. that you are only owed what you can get to yourself. but what i love about movements
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like this, these aren't movements where people come together to complain. it's as if you were saying before, it's where people come together to gather their strength, gather their moral strength together and be together in a call for justice and a call to fairness. what i also love about what you've been showing in all the clips, the cultural symmetry. our culture was on the same page, from music to movies. it was sort of a moment where the entirety of the culture was in accord. and i think that's one of the challenges that we have now with activism. we have a lot of the hip hop community that's come together. and i think the trayvon martin moment has made a difference and it's caused people to do that. i think there was a lot of galvanizing around the elections as well. but i wish we could get back to that authentic agreement in our culture. >> to the extent there was a deep fissure that was around kind of the red scare and the idea that the organizers, the organizers of the original march, were people who were socialist in their perspective,
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what are your great memories of ruston in particular? the man who made that original march run on time? >> and run it all. this was the genius of the march. i was one of a small group of people who hung around ruston. he was the movement intellectual. he had run freedom rights in 1982. he was a pacifist who had gone to war, resisting -- gone to jail resisting the war, world war ii. he was the only man who kind of brought it all together. in fact, i think he's the only person who could have organized this march. and he was personally attacked by strom thurmond, but he was one of the openly black or white gay men in the universe. >> openly gay and black in 1963. we are live in washington, d.c. for the 50th commemoration of the march on washington. today's march is slated to begin
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in about an hour and a half. but dozens of people, including congressman john lewis and martin luther king iii are going to address these growing crowds from the steps of the lincoln memorial over the course of the next hour and a half. our coverage will continue at the top of the hour. [ dad ] so i walked into that dealer's office and you know what i walked out with? [ slurps ] [ dad ] a new passat. [ dad ] 0% apr. 60 months. done and done. [ dad ] in that driveway, is a german-engineered piece of awesome. that i got for 0% apr. good one, dad. thank you, dalton. [ male announcer ] it's the car you won't stop talking about. ever. hurry in to the volkswagen best. thing. ever. event. and get 0% apr for 60 months, now until september 3rd. that's the power of german engineering.
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years ago. eric holder, the nation's first african-american attorney general is scheduled to speak during this hour. his will be among many speeches that we will bring you live. but first, i want to talk about the legacy of that day, 50 years ago, and how it has become inextricably linked with the legacy of the day's most famous speaker. so, joy, we often talk about, king came to the march and delivered the "i have a dream" speech, but in fact, those words were not even used. that was a riff, a common riff he had used previously. >> it's interesting, the prepared remarks that he actually came to deliver were quite different. the "i have a dream" was a riff he used in churches and many times before. but his prepared text was about the blank check, the bad check. the negro had been given this bad check. and it was really an indictment of the american system and what it had done.
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the "i have a dream" came mid-speech when he started to feel it. if he just went into preacher mode and started to talk about this dream, that is not what he came to do. we've done a lot of interviews with folks who were there. and i actually spoke with a gentleman, a white guy, who was head of the ncaap in miami. and he said what he remembered most was the part about the bad check. and that this notion after slavery had essentially said, we will make it right with the african-american, with the negro, at a time, and hasn't done so. and this march was so much about economic injustice, and so much about the part about jobs, justice, and freedom that the "i have a dream" part is a gauzy remembrance and in a way takes away from the underlying purpose of the march. >> and it didn't i take away from it in that moment, but in our historical willful misremembrance, we want to remember the holding hands and singing, but we don't want to talk about that check that was
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returned, insufficient funds. i want to take a moment and go into the crowd of today's event, not just into the past, but in this moment. mara schiavocampo of nbc is standing by live in the crowd. hi, mara, how are you? who do you have there with you? >> reporter: hey, melissa, the crowd is growing. buss are dropping people off by the moment. i'm here with a group from philly. they've been on the road since 4:00 this morning. andrea johnson is with her groups, girls you can do it inc. it's a youth empowerment program. this is the first time for all of you? >> we're always wanting our children to know about their history and the struggles that was made for them and the relevance and importance of those struggles. so bringing them to the march on washington was something big that our organization wanted to do, so they can experience what their foresisters and brothers and cousins and aunts and uncles and all had done to help them with regards to getting them to where they are today. so it was important for me to
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bring them here, so they can experience all this great event and for myself as well. i've heard so much about it from loving history, and i just wanted them to experience something with me for the first time as well. >> now, you mentioned that certain issues that the kids are growing up with, like crime and violence, because of the city that you're in, and obviously it's a problem in cities across the country, what do you want them to take away from this so they can then use in their lives in trying to make their communities a better place? >> right, i want them to take away that their voice, they have a voice. and by using their voice, they can make a difference and make change. that it takes one person to stand up, to be a leader and say, i'm going to make a change. and for them to have already started doing that and now for them to have their peers following them now is something that gives them greater relevance or a greater, you know, a greater knowledge of what they need to do, how to use their voices effectively and efficiently, in order to bring
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about change. >> and you're 11 years old, you're here at this event. i'm sure you know the history of it. you've seen the video clips. what does it mean to you to be here for this today? >> it actually means a lot to me, because it's kind of my -- it's actually my history, and i am -- it's my history and i like to learn history a lot. >> we have some young budding activists here. thank you so much for that, girl s. this crowd is swelling as people continue to arrive and get ready for that march. melissa? >> thank you so much, mara, and thank you to the young people who are here. you maybe see that the reverend al sharpton and martin luther king iii are arriving here. some of the folks in the crowd are seeing them and cheering. those are people who were children, right, children during the last march, joy. and so here we are seeing children in the crowd now, and of course, we don't know which of those children might be the
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reverend al sharpton, you know, who will some day be reflecting on this moment. and not just this moment today, but the fact that those young people have their own set of challenges to engage in. when you look at the 11-year-old, the 12-year-old facing this particular set of american structures, do you see those structures as more difficult or perhaps more difficult or at least to challenge with this kind of movement, than the challenges 50 years ago that were faced by young people? >> i think in some ways, just because the moral outrage against what was happening, particularly in the south, but all over the country, in terms of segregation, it was very easy to understand and it was sort of singular. the idea that people were being denied public accommodations was a stark reality that was easy to legislate against. and let's remember that the democratic president had a two-thirds majority in the senate and the house. so we had an overwhelming legislative majority. even though it was collahalleng they still had a context that they could get something like that through, despite the
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resistance of a lot of democrats, for kennedy's bill that ultimately became lyndon johnson's bill. today, i think it's difficult. because ideologically, people are so much more dug in. and even the concept of organizing and marching and advocating for what you call civil rights has become an ideological issue. it was then, as well, obviously, too. but it's become almost a political truism. that if you are in one party, you are not allowed to touch these issues. you have to say no for political reasons of self-preservation. so this congress makes it really challenging. remember, this march was designed in part to support legislation that was trying to go through congress. and now the idea of being able to legislate through these issues, it feels more daunting and more difficult. >> and raising the minimum wage to a livable wage. making sure that people work in circumstances of dig any. the these are part of our contemporary as well. i want to listen to a moment of fred shuttlesworth. he's talking about why a movement would matter, why a march in particular would
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matter. and i want to listen to this. >> we're going to march! we're going to walk together! we're going to sing together! we're going to stay together! we're going to move together! we're going to grow together! freedom, freedom, freedom! freedom now! >> that emotion, we are going to be together, and so, i heard -- i hear that adult saying, i brought these children, because we need to be together in order to face this difficult set of strategic and political questions. >> and it's difficult. >> a lot of people see the march on washington as history, and that has become an excuse of displanting the laws that were put in place as a result. the things that happened in 1964 and '65 that were a result of 20 plus years of organizing are now the excuse for dismantling a lot of those protections.
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it's easier to make a case of why you need this big movement. it's difficult. and for a lot of young people, this seems like history. it feels -- it clearly is a very different country. with the direct impediments to accessing schools and accessing restaurants and public accommodations, those have fallen away, thank dpogod. and we are a more progressive nation, so it's more difficult to make the case that we need fundamental, structural change. >> and we're sitting here in washington, d.c. our president is a re-elected african-american democratic president. you and i, two black women are sitting on television, having a conversation about this, and yet that's exactly the point. that this movement 50 years ago wasn't about elevating one man to one office or two girls to these seats. how do we measure what accomplishment looks like for the collective in a conference where there are some very real individual achievements. >> and individual achievements, you get back the oprah question. if oprah is rich, can you
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possibly say there is an economic inequality based on race? or can you say for the lbgt community, there are a lot of individual gay and lesbian folk that are doing great. that doesn't mean the mass are doing great. you have these individual examples that are so profound and so powerful, it's difficult to make the case to the people who will oppose it. and then the economy is structured so much differently. we're in a global economy, where americans are competing against a world of workers who will work for less. so the downward pressure on wages isn't just coming from people who oppose the minimum wage, it's coming from the global economy. we're in such a complex environment, it's difficult to directly advocate, because how do you deal with the international, economic situation? how do you deal with all of that and hold that in? it's a lot more complex, sort of like a rubik's cube now. it's more difficult. >> and civil rights workers thought it was a challenge to go support and challenge president kennedy, and man, is it hard to do that in the context of an obama administration?
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we want to know how you're advancing the dream. and we don't just want to know by having you tell us, we want you to show us. head to to share what you're doing to help further dr. king's dream. use #advancingthedream and tweet us a picture that explains how you're helping our nation to move forward. we're going to be right back with our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington, live from washington, d.c. [ dennis ] it's always the same dilemma -- who gets the allstate safe driving bonus check. rock beats scissors! [ chuckles ] wife beats rock. and with two checks a year, everyone wins. [ female announcer ] switch today and get two safe driving bonus checks a year for driving safely. only from allstate. call 866-906-8500 now. [ dennis ] zach really loves his new camera. problem is...this isn't zach. it's a friend of a friend who was at zach's party and stole his camera.
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this represents a grassroots ferment, a deep determination in the hearts of millions of brown
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americans to be free and it is a tribute to them that they have chosen to still appeal to their government in this type of dignified matter. >> i am melissa harris-perry and we are part of msnbc's live and continuing coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. you're looking right now at a live shot of the lincoln memorial. the lincoln memorial is, of course, an iconic image here on the mall in washington, d.c. it is from these steps at the lincoln memorial where dr. king delivered the speech which we now think of as the "i have a dream" speech. he stood and looked out over literally miles of bodies, of people who had come, black and white, people from the south and from the north people who were christian and people who were jewish, who came out faith. who stood in this place with a
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faith that the american people could, in fact, to do great things. things as great as what is represented there by the lincoln memorial. and joining us now is someone who always gets me revved up, thinking about the possibilities of american greatness. barbara arou barbara arnewine, with the lawyer's committee for civil rights under the law. barbara, i am so pleased to have you here. because when we think about the great accomplishment that came 50 years ago, the '64 civil rights act, the '65 voting rights act. two years there this moment, what do we need to see, legislatively, in order to be able to say that we are truly moving forward? >> well, the most important things that we need to see, one is the restoration of the voting rights act. and that is absolutely imperative. and every america who's watching today should be on the phone, calling their congress. they should be tweeting. they should be demanding that congress passes a new voting
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rights act to restore the damage that was done by the supreme court in the shelby case. second, they need to pass a new sentencing act that gets rid of all the disparities between crack and coke, powder, campaign. they also need to passing laws to get rid of this mass incarceration and take away from this war on drugs, the sting of minor offenses. having a single joint should not have people in jail for years. we've got to do that, because 52% of all people in jail are there for minor offenses. they need to have a national law saying that no law enforcement agency that engages in stop and frisk in a racial profiling way will be given a dime of federal money. they needs to be all kinds of legislations in the criminal justice area. we also need a jobs bill! a jobs bill! we need to employ the american
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people. it's a tragedy that in our country that millions of people are unemployed. millions of people are unemployed, all jrgenders. we've got to change that around. >> let me ask you on the first one. you've laid out voting and incarceration reform and economics. on the first one, how confident are you that we can get a new federal formula that will reinvigorate section five by addressing the formula, section four, which was struck down by the supreme court? >> i am confident that if the american people rise up, if they demand a voting rights act that we'll get one. i think that 200,000 or so, look at the hundreds of thousands of people, the tens of thousands that are here today, if everybody said, i'm marching, in my own way, i might be at home today, but i'm going to march, because i'm going to demand that my congressperson, my senator pass a new voting rights act. if they hear you, they'll pass
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it. >> stay with us. we'll be right back with more of our special coverage of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington, live from washington, d.c. [ male announcer ] come to the golden opportunity sales event
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including the es and rx. ♪ this is the pursuit of perfection. looking out over so must have of these smiling faces. the last time i've seen this many of us, bo connor was doing all the talking. >> i'm melissa harris-perry. and i'm here on the mall in washington, d.c. for the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. joining joy-ann reid of msnbc and barbara arnewine on the lawyer's committee, is jolani cob. help us out. we've been trying to think about the legislative efforts going forward. but help me with the historical
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memory here. what is it that we most misremember about the march 50 years ago? >> i think that we misremember, when we start 50 years ago, the march in 1941, what randolph did, one of the most audacious things in african-american history, i think he essentially mobilized what would have been 100,000 people with the demand that on the verge of world war ii, the defense industries that were increasingly hiring lots of people. unemployment had dropped substantially, because of all the hiring in anticipation of war, and african-americans were not part of that hiring boom. and a. phillip randolph mobilized at a time when people were saying he should not do this. this will disrupt national morale, this will be harmful to the efforts of civil rights. he mobilized, on one week before this march, president franklin roosevelt came and said, we're going to issue executive order
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8802 that will prevent discrimination in the defense industry. >> and in fact, randolph then becomes an architect of this march. >> that's right, that's right. >> let's listen very quickly to a. phillip randolph in 1963. >> we believe that it is one of the biggest, most creative and constructive demonstrations ever held in the history of our nation. >> and so there is a. phillip randolph in that moment, reminding us that this has been a multi-decade plan ining proce this allows some of these legislative processes that we talk about now. >> the other important aspect of this, remember, this is a march for jobs. >> ben jealous, the current head of the naacp is taking the podium now to address the crowd.
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>> when they say, no, you can't, we say, yes, we can! when they say, no, you can't, past or real, racial profiling with teeth, we say, yes, we can! because, yes, we did! two days ago in new york city. when they say no, you can't pass the dream acts. no, you can't pass marriage equality, no, you can't abolish the death penalty. no, you can't expand voting rights in any state, south of the mason-dixon, we say, yes, we can! because yes, we did just five miles from here in maryland last year. when they say -- when they say, yes -- when they say, no, you
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can't restore the full force of thing of the vote rights act, no, you can't raise the minimum wage, not with this congress, we say, yes, we can, because, yes, we have, again and again. so let us claim some victories right now let us say yes, we will pass trayvon's law from coast to coast. let us say, yes, we will protect the right to vote with all our might until we win the fight finally once and for all. and let us say, yes, we will raise the minimum wage because you cannot survive on $7.25! yes, we will! yes, we will! yes, we will!
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god bless you and god bless the naacp. >> ben jealous of the naacp, addressing the crowd here in washington, d.c., at the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. i'm melissa harris-perry. we will continue to bring you speakers throughout the morning as this march continues to get underway. i want to bring in now taylor branch. taylor branch is an historian and historical biographer of martin luther king jr. i would like to chat with him for a moment about this moment. it's so nice to see you and to have you here. >> i'm glad to be here. >> so talk with me about who dr. king is, in his journey, to who he is becoming on august 28th, 1963. sort of, who is the king that we see on the steps of the lincoln
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memorial? >> it's a king that's been trying ever since the bus boycott to define america's historical moment. his great breakthrough occurred just a few months earlier in birmingham, when the dogs and the fire hoses were unleashed on small children, which set off spontaneous demonstrations that led to the need for a mass march to support his civil rights bill. that's what brought him here. he had an opportunity to stand up there and define what the moment meant. the movement was based not only on oratory, it was based on sacrifice and people willing to stretch across the differences that divided people but he spoke for it and he gave it a tremendous grounding here in both out f our civic and spirit aspirations. that's what he did in the "i have a dream" speech. even though he didn't deliver -- none of what's famous is what he planned to say. >> right, which i think is important. i want to talk, though, about what you just said. is that it wasn't based just in
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oratory, but in sacrifice. there was enormous amount of bloodshed in the months and the immediate weeks leading up to this march 50 years ago. tell us what people standing on that mall would have been thinking about, about the level of sacrifice and violence that they were experiencing. >> well, first of all, a lot of people were afraid even to come to the march. don't let people kid you that it was a cakewalk. black people and white people were scared of it. the federal government, the district of columbia canceled liquor sales for the first time since prohibition, they were so scared. they canceled elective surgery, they stockpiled plasma, they had riot troops in the suburbs. major league baseball canceled not one, but two washington senators games, fearing that we would still be cleaning up from armageddon. so we were fearful. one reason the march on washington has such a patriotic glow today is that white america was immensely relieved. >> they were shocked! >> they were terrified. and it turns out they're giving an "i have a dream" speech and
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they're patriots just like everyone else. so we're still living in that. and so it makes the movement a little more sacklin than it was. >> i want to go on to the mall with nbc's peter alexander right now, because he's with there with some folks who are having thoughts about why they're here right now. >> reporter: we're on independence avenue. this is where the march is going to take place, not long from now. we are in the shadow of martin luther king's memorial here, introducing you to some of the families we have met today. this is ruth whitfield and her beautiful daughters. you came from buffalo, you came from dublin, ohio. mom, who is the meaning of this day to be here with your daughters since you couldn't be here 50 years ago? >> i'm really excited. i think it's a time in history. and my children and my grandchildren will be able to look back on this and know that we were able to be here for this occasion. >> and i should ask you, angela, you have three daughters, one finishing college, as i
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understand, two that did at ohio state. what is, as it was the march for jobs and freedom, what is the status of the job environment for daughters like yours? >> it's difficult at the moment, but we are here because we want them to be encouraged. we want them to know that it's going to be okay. as long as they continue to fight and not forget from whence we've come. >> reporter: we appreciate you guys being with us. if i can, very quickly, introducing you to one other individual you've met. la tanya cabot from not far away in virginia. your family, your mom is from little rock, arkansas. you said, in your own church, you have members of the little rock nine. why are you here? >> i am here to represent my family. they're originally from the midwest, but i want to show that i can be here, since i live close by, and that for dr. martin luther king, i wanted to come out and support and meet other families from different states that was here 50 years ago. >> and you said today is about
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building a new tradition as well. all the new people you've met today, the new contact information you've got to build a community going forward. >> yes. we've exchanged phone numbers and e-mails, so we could stay in touch. we've taken pictures and we've exchanged business cards. but it's really good, and i'm in support of president obama's education. >> it's nice to meet you. you'll appreciate, melissa, that her shirt reads, "good hair." you tell me that's not good hair right there. she did it. she did it right. it is a great day out here, as these people who wait to tabs on the march wait here on independence avenue. >> peter, thank you so much. i would like to bring in at this moment marcia fudge, who is speaking. we'll take a moment and listen to her. >> -- good jobs and equal pay. we continue to fight for fair housing and believe it or not, we continue the fight for the unabridged right to vote.
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we are fighting today for equal justice, and we all know what i'm talking about. the efforts that have been -- the efforts we've seen over the past few years to roll back the clock must fire up the civil rights movement of today. i'm here to remind you that tomorrow's dream depends on today's mooucvement. we've come this far by faith. we cannot turn back now or lose faith. to quote dr. king, he said that the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy. it is time for us to get uncomfortable. it is time for us to be in inconvenienced. we are living in a time of great challenge and great controversy. we cannot rest, we must not rest until our work is done. so i'm here to remind you that it is time for us to do something, to stand for something. to say something, to march for
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something. to go forward, always go forward. civil rights is unfinished business, and each one of us needs to make it our business. thank you. >> that was representative marcia fudge, democrat from ohio. ohio, of course, being one of the ground zeros on the questions of voting in both 2000 and 2004. we are joined now by wade henderson, the president and ceo of the leadership conference on civil and human rights. so nice to have you here, wayne. >> great to be here. >> i want to ask you about two things. first, i want you to tell me your story of being here on the mall and why you were here and how you got here 50 years ago. >> it's an interesting story and picks up on something that taylor branch just said. i'm from washington, d.c. this is the nation's capital. i was 15 in 1963 and the first quarter of my life as an adult was grown up in a segregated world.
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washington, d.c. was a city grouped by apartheid, like, perhaps, the rest of the country in the south at that time was. a separate, rigid racial code. and so it was in 1963 that washington, d.c., as the site of this march, had really been traumatized by the press. we had been told that violence was likely to occur. 4,000 members of the national guard had been impanelled and were waiting just outside of the city in case there was trouble. and in fact, other police departments in the eastern region had been contacted and said, look, be on notice, because we may have real problems. so when the federal government decided to have liberal leave for most of their employees, when liquor sales were stopped, when, in fact, there was a clear sense of, you know, panic in the city, many in my community chose not to participate in the march. >> yeah. >> and my own family was concerned about the violence that might occur, and really discouraged me and others from coming. i said that i wanted to watch the march with my grandmother,
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who lived nearby, and i decided to ride my bike to see her. but that really wasn't what it was about. you know, for me, this was a rite of passage. i was a 15-year-old young man, feeling himself feeling that i wanted to be a part of this moment. and i knew it was going to be a moment in time. >> and that idea of a right of passage, associated with a political and social movement is, i think, part of what what young people today say. i want to have been part of something and now i want to be part of something. but jelani, it doesn't seem like being in a march would be that rite of passage now. actually, pause for one moment. we're going to pause to eric holder, attorney general for the united states of america. >> thank you. thank you.
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thank you. thank you! thank you. it is an honor for me to be here today among so many friends, distinguished civil rights leaders, members of congress, and fellow citizens who fought, rallied, and organized from the streets of this nation to the halls of our capitol to advance the cause of justice. 50 years ago, dr. king shared his dream with the world and described visions for a society that offered and delivered the promise of equal justice under law. he assured his fellow citizens that his goal was within reach, as long as they kept faith with one another and maintained the courage and the commitment to
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work toward it. and he urged them to do just that. by calling for no more and no less than equal justice. by standing up for the civil rights to which everyone is entitled. and by speaking out in the face of hatred, violence, and defiance of those who sought to turn them back with fire hoses, bullets, and bombs for the dignity of a promise kept. the honor of a right redeemed. and the pursuit of a sacred truth that's been woven through the history of our nation's country, that all are created equal. now, those who marched on washington in 1963 had taken a long and difficult road. from montgomery to greens burro through selma and tuscaloosa. they marched in spite of animosity, depression, and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this
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nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept. their focus at that time was the sacred and sadly unmet commitments of the american system as it applied to african-americans. as we gather today, 50 years later, their march is now our march and it must go on and our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of latinos, of asian americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities, and of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality, opportunity, and fair treatment. dr. king's indelible words helped to alter the course of history. and his work provided the foundation for much of the progress that has vfollowed. but this morning, as we recommit
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ourselves to his quest for progress, we must note that in addition to dr. king, they must also stand on the shoulders of untold millions whose names may be lost to history, but whose stories and whose contributions must be remembered and must be treasured. surely those who stood on the mall in the summer of 1963, but we must also remember those who rode buses, who sat at lunch counters, who stood up to racist governments and governors, and tragically those who gave their lives. we must remember generations who carried themselves on a day-to-day basis with great dignity in the face of inspeakable justice, sacrificing their own ambitions so that the opportunities of future generations would be assured. but for them, i would not be attorney general of the united states and barack obama would not be president of the united
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states of america. we must remember those who labored for wages that measured neither their worth nor their effort. we must remember those who served and fought and died wearing the uniform of a nation that they cared so much about, but which did not reciprocate that devotion in equal measure. each of these brave men and women displayed a profound love of country that must always be appreciated. it is to these people that we owe the greatest debt. americans of all races, genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and backgrounds, who risked everything in order that their fellow citizens and their children might truly be free. it is to them that we must all say, in the most profound of ways, thank you. it is to them that i dedicate my
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words this morning and it is in their honor that i pledge my continuing service in the hope that it might pay worthy tribute to their sacrifices. but today's observance is about far more than reflecting on our past. today's march is also about committing to shape the future that we will undoubtedly share. a future that preserves the progress and builds on the achievements that have led us to this moment. today, we look to the work that remains unfinished, and make note of our nation's shortcomings. not because we wish to dwell on imperfection, but because as those who came before us, we love this great country. we want this nation to be all that it was designed to be and all that it can become. we recognize that we are forever bound to one another, and that we stand united by the work that lies ahead and by the journey that still stretches before us.
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this morning, we affirm that the struggle must and will go on in the cause of our nation's quest for justice. until every eligible american has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote, unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices. it must go on until our criminal justice system can assure that all are created equally and fairly in the eyes of the law. and it must go on until every action that we take reflects our values and that which is best about us. it must go on until those who are now living and generations yet to be born can be assured the rights and the opportunities that have been too long denied to too many. the america envisioned at this site 50 years ago, the beloved community, has not yet been
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realize realized, but half a century after the march and 150 years after emancipation, it is finally within our grasp. together, through determined effort, through a willingness to confront corrosive forces tied to special interests, rather than the common good, and through devotion to our finding documents, i know that in the 21st century, we will see an america that is more perfect and more fair. i thank each of you for your continuing dedication to this cause and your leadership of this important work, and i look forward to all that we will surely achieve together by advancing the cause that remains our common pursuit, by preserving the legacy that we are called on to extend and by helping to realize the dream that still guides our every step. thank you all very much.
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>> that was attorney general eric holder, the first african-american attorney general of the united states, serving under the first african-american president of the united states, and barber, i've got to say, i feel like some history was just made. >> yes! that attorney general getting that particular response, the roar of the crowd for an attorney general, how different is that from 50 years ago? >> think about it. that was the largest, most loudest greeting for any speaker today that we've heard so far. >> that we've heard! >> and that was because they know that he's fighting for voting rights, they've seen him sue taxes, they've seen him sue taxes twice. they've seen him stop people in south carolina and other states. they know he's out there fighting for him and they also are responding to his speech of last week, where he called for criminal justice reform. they know this is a man who's
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not just about locking people up. he's knot a man who's about just doing the business of keeping america going. he's about a new america. he's about a new sense of justice. and i think it's great to see that justice is back in the department of justice! >> and how important was it, wade, for him to stand there and say, people with disabilities, gay and lesbian americans, latinos, women, and african-americans, such an inclusive message. >> it was an extraordinary speech. and i daresay no attorney general prior to eric holder has ever spoken with such elegance to a mass delegation of citizens and to those who wanted to be citizens. so the fact that he lifted up groups that has never previously been acknowledged from a state like this, gays and lesbians, persons with disabilities, latinos who with 11 million undocumented persons in our country, the administration is committed to a comprehensive immigration bill. this was a new vision of america, and it was one that
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this attorney general helped usher into the process. >> compare it for me, to what might have been the response of this crowd in 1963, had the attorney general stood up and spoken? >> well, remember who was the attorney general? by the end of his life, five years later, he probably would have wished he had been here. but on that date, he was considering pressure from jay edgar hoover, which is what was going on. jay edgar hoover said the day after the march, he received a secret edict that said king's demagoguing "i have a dream" speech should mark him as the most dangerous negro networin a. it's a sobering thought to us now that a member of our government would be so jaundices against something that was so profoundly patriotic. >> and i want to pause on that. that is not just an historic question. so right in this moment, as so many people on this mall are
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thinking about issues of criminal justice, reform, in the form of stop and frisk, as they're thinking about issues around voting rights, we're also thinking about the nsa. and we're also thinking about the fact that that j. edgar hoover moment of listening in on wiretapping is a part of our moment. is there a way we can learn of that historic moment in our contemporary one? >> the civil rights movement was wrestling with the profoundest questions of how a democracy worked. nowadays, we have sound bites of answers and we're divided between two factions, each of whom said we would be perfect if the other half dropped dead. the civil rights movement didn't say that. they said, we should move together. the most common complaint is, why should we keep bringing this up. >> pause for one moment.
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we have mark morial of the national urban league speaking. >> i stand here to reaffirm our commitment to the civil rights and equal opportunities from then and now, and we must redeem the dream in order to realize the dream. we must redeem the dream, because there are those who have attacked our democracy, our voting rights, and our access to equal economic opportunity. they may wear different clothes, they may use different slogans, they may have different talking points, but like those in 1963, they filibuster, they obstruct, and they hinder. we must redeem the dream, because 21st century forces are at work to eliminate and reverse our economic process through a vicious assault on our nation's poorest, weakest, most disadvantaged, and dispossessed citizens. we must redeem the dream, because our children should live in communities without senseless
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gun violence. our children deserve access to quality education. >> and economic employment for all and eternal values that transcend any century. we will redeem the dream. we will redeem the dream so that this generation of americans from all walks of life are active and not silent. committed and not complacent, as we stand our ground against those forces that seek to reverse the clock. there are those who wish to pass stand your ground legislation. we say, we will stand our ground against any person, any policy, any procedure, any movement that
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threatens our civil rights, our voting rights, and economic opportunity. commemoration, 50 years ago, is where we started, commitment is what commitment is what we pledge. continuation is where we're going. this is the 21st century agenda for jobs and freedom. this is the new civil rights movement. thank you very much. >> that was mark morial of the national urban league invoking the language of stand your ground. in this case not to mean armed self-defense, but instead this language of stand your ground to mean something about the preservation of a set of civil rights that have been hard earned over the past 50 years. >> that's right. i think it's really important we're seeing these ties between what we think are historic and the parallels to what we see now, especially in the issues of law enforcement. that's what makes eric holder's
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speech stand out. i don't think we can escape how important that is. the other thing i will add, one point to mr. branch's comment. >> hold for one moment, we have mayor cory booker, mayor of newark, new jersey, currently a candidate for the u.s. senate. >> -- 50 years ago. please allow me to speak to those like myself who were not even alive when the march on washington happened. my father when i was growing up said it very simply. when i used to walk around the community, walk around our home, he used to look at me and say, boy, don't you dare walk around here like you hit a triple because you were born on third base. you are enjoying freedoms, opportunity, technology, things that were given to you bought by
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the struggles and the sacrifices and the work of those who came before. don't you forget where you come from. you drank deeply from wells of freedom and liberty and opportunity that you did not dig. you eat lavishly from banquet tables, prepared for you by your ancestors. we in my generation cannot now afford to sit back consuming all of our blessings, getting dumb, fat and happy thinking that we have achieved freedom. the truth of the matter is, that the dream still demands that the moral conscience of our country still calls us, that hope still needs heroes. we need to understand that there is still work to do. when the leading cause of death for black men my age and younger is gun violence, we still have
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work to do. when we still have a justice system that treats the economically disadvantaged and minorities different than others, we still have work to do. when you can in america work a full-time job plus over time and still be below the stifling -- we still have work to do. when we see wages stagnating, when child poverty is increas g increasing -- toxics and their rivers are polluted and their air quality is so poor that asthma is epidemic, we still have work to do, and so my generation, we can't sit back now thinking democracy is a spectator sport when all we can do is watch our tv screens and
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cheer for our side, democracy demands action. we can't sit back and get caught up in a state of sedentary agitation where we get so upset about the world going on but we don't get up and do something about it. we cannot allow ourselves to let our inability to do everything undermine our determination to do something. so now i call upon my generation to understand that we can never pay back the struggles and the sacrifices of the generation before. but it is our moral obligation to pay it forward. like thousands of others stood, like ella baker stood, like good win and cheney and swarner stood, like the freedom riders stood. we must stand now. we must stand until we live in
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who you love but we don't have second class citizenship or gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. we must stand now until we become a nation where a woman working the same job as a man gets the same pay. we must stand. we must stand for a country where 20% of our children are not shackled by the shadings of poverty. we must stand today. we must stand in my generation. we must stand for equality. we must stand for justice. we must stand like those stood before us because we still live in a country where anything is possible. but as king said, change will not roll in on the wheels of inevitability. so me must straighten our backs, stand together and join together until indeed our nation becomes one where the call of the conscience of children coast to coast, where they say that
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profound pledge, when we make those words not aspirational but true in our land, that america is a country truly for all of his children, her children, that we are truly a nation with liberty and justice for all. thank you very much. >> very nice, cory. >> new york's mayor cory booker, also the democratic nominee for the u.s. senate. we are now going the hear from steny hoyer. steny hoyer is the chair and ranking democrat in the u.s. congress. >> 50 years ago the reverend dr. martin luther king stood here and put into mighty words the hopes, the dreams, the frustrations of millions of americans, black and white, that the people of this land were not yet fully free and none could
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enjoy our democracy until all could enjoy it. we all know the famous words, the dream he shared of placing destain other brotherhood. his speech was a resonating call to action, one that impelled me and others to channel our own commitment for civil rights into a life of activism for justice and equality. but what calls us here once more was the pronouncement that dr. king made and he said 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. that's what cory booker was talking about. america today has much to be proud of in no small part thanks to dr. king and my friend john lewis and countless others who wrote, spoke out, stood up, marched, bled, languaged in jail, sat in and endured what dr. king called creative
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suffering. the historic election of president obama testifies to the progress we have made which would not have been possible if not for the millions who sacrificed and raised their voices for change. but we are here, all of us, here to declare that we shall not rest nor shall we be satisfied by the way things now stand. too many of our people still inhabit islands of poverty and inequality. too many despair at fewer opportunities to find good jobs that pay well and provide their families with a chance to reach the middle class. too many have no voice in our democracy because they are told they have no valid i.d. with which to vote or they have to choose between going to work or to the polls today. we will not rest. that is our pledge today. it was our pledge in 1963, and a half century later we renew that pledge.
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let us march on. god bless you. >> all right. that was steny hoyer, democrat of maryland and ranking democrat here in the u.s. house of representatives. i want to come back to something you said, taylor, where you suggested that the march was part of a movement that was interested in the fundamental questions of democracy, not just legislative action, but fundamental questions of democracy. what do you see as the fundamental questions -- i'm sorry. we'll have to pause for just a moment because democratic minority leader nancy pelosi is now going to address the crowd. >> hello everyone. as a member of the leadership of the congress of the united states it is my official privilege to welcome so many of you to washington, d.c. to the steps of the lincoln memorial. i join my colleagues and associate myself with the
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remarks of those from congress who have spoken before me. that's officially. personally it is my very personal pleasure to be here with each and every one of you because i was here 50 years ago. so who among you is going to be the speaker of the house, the president of the united states or whatever. you're a beautiful sight to behold, and at that time 50 years ago we heard dr. king inspire us with the "i have a dream" part of his speech, the part that was the call to action was the fierce urgency of now part of his speech. in that time dr. king says we refuse to take the tranquillity drug of gradualism. we must move

Melissa Harris- Perry
MSNBC August 24, 2013 7:00am-9:01am PDT

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